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Certification vs. Degree

John Lee
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Joined: Aug 05, 2001
Posts: 2545
I know this is an old topic. I think one certification is certainly less than a 4-yr degree. But what about many certifications.
A 4-yr CS degree = 2 years of CS class = 20 months study time.
So if you keep a pace of 1 exam/month, within 20 months, you will get 20 cert exam(assignment).
A SCJP counts as one, so does SCJD or SCWCD. SCEA will count two(one exam + one assignment).
So 20 months of study will equal to:
SC**(5) + MCSD(4) + MCSE(6) + OCDBA(4) + one more
Then maybe we can have a fair comparison of Cert vs. degree.
I was not major in CS, but I took some CS classes before. I also took some cert. I would say I learn much more from cert than CS classes.
Adam Roberts
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 18, 2002
Posts: 71
Ugh. This debate always seems to irritate me. Not the debate itself, I suppose, but the conclusion I've come to.
Over the past 2 years I've put a decent amount of my time and money into certifications. Less for the acutal certification and more for the learning. After getting my A+, N+ ,MCSA, MCSD, SCJP2 and SCWCD,( currently banging out the old SCJD right now ) I can tell you I've learned more earning these certs than I have in all of my traditional education.
Unfortunatly, there are several very big problems with certifications, most notably with M$ ones. (Sun's certs are one of the few that do not suffer from these ailments) The biggest offenders, braindumps and the 'test prep' industry(read: selling acutal answers), effectively ruin certain certifications. While I'm sure there is cheating at accredited universities, the exact questions and answers are not usually a webpage or credit card charge away.
I suppose if the questions were more 'secure' or if tests implemented a bank of several thousand questions, rather then several hundred, your comparison becomes more realistic.
The unfortunate fact remains, though, a college degree is a requirement for many jobs. While this is extremely silly in my mind, considering many CS majors have little practical experience.
I agree with your logic wholeheartly. Those certs, if implemented in the way they should be, would be more than enough to be an equivlent to a CS degree. Unfortunatly, in real world, it simply does not work like this. Although certifications give great practical experience,employers, at least for the time being, value the degree far more than the certs.
I suppose that, if possible, one should pursue both.
*takes deep breath* Okay I'm done ranting and will shut up now

Adam Roberts - SCJP2, SCJD<br />insert witty something here
Richard Brown
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 16, 2001
Posts: 79
I agree that while earning a certification you learn a lot and i have personally experienced this benefit.
About MS certs, true that they have lost and are loosing value because of frauds. Fortunately the field of J2EE Certifications is still intact and is benefiting a lot. Specially the market for it has started rebouncing.

Rich Brown,<BR>You can always do it!!!
Ashik Uzzaman
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 05, 2001
Posts: 2372

Yes, online certs make you learn something....but there are some ppl who make it painful for others by simply making it dirty...
I am personally benefitted i know by two certs i gained, specially as my background is not computer these two make ppl believe i am a computer professional....

Ashik Uzzaman
Lead Member of Technical Staff, Salesforce.com, San Francisco, CA, USA.
Sunny Liu
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 15, 2002
Posts: 63
I have passed 29 computer exams, from hardware to software development, plus some BSCS, does that means a PHD to my employer. I guess not. I have interviewed a "MCSE", he did not even know how does TCP/IP work? A college graduated student, I interviewed before, he did not know what is cat 5 cable either.
Basicly, Certificate or Degree does not mean anything. If you spend some times and M$, you will get what you want utimately. (I mean certificate and degree.) even worst, there are plenty of dump out there. Since I was a student, I haved passed more than 200 exams, I can said I am pretty good at taking exam at this point. I have only failed two exams once in 29 exams.
the most important thing is what you can do? Not every developer will develop a equal QUALITY AND QUANTITY software, even they have same Degree and Certificates. Software developement, it is about mind work and it can not measure by certificates or degree.

If I am rich, I will spend more.<p>IBM 486 (OOAD & UML) & 141 (XML) passed<br />Oracle 1Z0-007 passed<br />MCSD MCDBA MCSE <br />SCJP SCSSA<br />CCNA CNA A+
Marlon Bravo
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Joined: Dec 06, 2001
Posts: 40
I decided that it's probably worth your while to do both. I'm currently working on my MSCS while taking certs.
Just my 2 cents,
James Kwan
Ranch Hand

Joined: Dec 06, 2001
Posts: 51
I got my MSCS 2 years ago. It doesn't feel like I needed it unless you plan to leave your current job to feel the jump. Not sure if I should pursue a PhD or MBA next after taking all these certs.
[ April 26, 2002: Message edited by: James Kwan ]
Adam Roberts
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 18, 2002
Posts: 71
Unless you are going to teach, I really don't see the point of getting a PhD in computer science.
I personally don't plan on even getting my masters, but I'm just starting first year undergrad next year. Maybe I'll acutally like it
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 22, 2001
Posts: 110
well i must say both are important
i asked an Bs guy why have u done SCJP , He humbley answered "they look very good on CV"
well as i m just 16 years old but i can bet that
"Degree is THE MOST important thing u want"
their were no scjp's or MCSD 10 yaers ago the people known like enginers and doctors but know u nead both .
take a senario of a doctor if he only do MBBS(graduate) and he doesn't know about plastic surgey his degree is a pure waste as MBBS(graduate) can let u know about basics .
A computer batchelor is nothing if he is not an specific such as a java or a Visual Basic progammer and to show that u know java u have a proof and that proof might only be two things a certicate and then u have to know what's is written about in ur certificate like (u score 85% in threads so u have to know threads).
To conclude :
Degree + certification's + (u know how to do it practicaly ) = A complete professniol

Muhammad Hussain<br />Sun Certified Java Programer (SCJP2)<br />Sun Certified Web Component Devloper SCWCD
Joe McGuire
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Joined: Mar 19, 2001
Posts: 293
Yes, certification and a degree in a computer-related field look nice on a resume... but you are also forgetting another very valuable asset - experience.
As someone who's interviewed a lot of potential candidates, I like to see what kinds of projects someone has worked on, and the tools and methodologies he/she used to do it. Don't overlook putting this on your resume, it's a great way to show and talk about what you know how to do.
Joe McGuire
Sun Certified Java™ 2 Programmer, BEA WLS Certified Developer
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 22, 2001
Posts: 110
yes experience is but first thing u know how to do it then the experience will come
Ricardo Cortes
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Joined: Jan 23, 2002
Posts: 140
From what I have read in this thread, it appears that no one has addressed the advantages of learning the theory of computer science. I have a CS degree in Computer Science and it was almost exclusively based on theory. When I was doing my undergraduate, it was this lack of applicatory learning that was one of my biggest gripes but in retrospect it has actually come to benefit me way more than any certification. I find that knowing the theory of object-oriented programming is a lot better than knowing just one programming language, say Java. I can easily take what I have learned about the theory of OOP and adapt it to just about any specific programming language, including Objective-C, C++ and Java (which I have used in the last 4 years of my professional experience). While certifications are an excellent method to learning (I am taking the SCWCD exam this week) the ins and outs of a particular technology, I would hardly call them a replacement for a degree in Computer Science.
Furthermore, there are just so many topics that are not covered in certifications that expand into real life applications. For instance, my senior thesis focused on "solving" instances of NP-Complete problems like the Traveling Salesmen Problem using approximation algorithms and genetic algorithms (GAs). Now, folks sometimes wonder what GAs have to do with the "real world" and I tell them it has a lot to do with the "real world". For instance, any delivery service might want to know the minimal amount of distance it would take to go to X number of locations in the city. The solution stems down to finding the smallest Hamiltonian Circuit in a graph with the locations as the vertices and the edges as the distances between those locations. So tell me, which certifications cover Graph Theory, NP-Complete theory, Analysis of Algorithms and Search Spaces?

Sun Certified J2EE Architect for the J2EE Platform (Part 1)<br />Sun Certified Web Component Developer for the J2EE Platform<br />Sun Certified Programmer for the Java 2 Platform
Mark Herschberg

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
If you've read my many posts of this topic in Job Discussion, you'll know I'm not a big fan of certifications. Even accepting some value, saying X certifications equals Y degress is comparing apples are oranges.
A CS degree will give you the fundamentals of CS. Much of it is impractical, but that which is practical is far more valuable then technology skills. The older I get, the more I value the college experience as a whole, as valuable. It has nothing to do with the particular knowledge gained. Something many people misunderstand about education is that high education teaches you how to think (or at least tries to) the facts are just a medium. No about of certifications can replace that.
Besdies, as I always say, any smart person can because an expert in a technology. The reverse doesn't always hold.
Reid M. Pinchback
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Joined: Jan 25, 2002
Posts: 775
I guess I'll just add my 2 cents worth. Once upon a time I did a BMath with what was effectively a CS concentration. I've done the SCJP2, and in past have taken courses for other certifications (although I haven't taken the cert exams). I think these efforts are all complementary. They teach you different things. I wish SCJP had existed before I went to university. If I'd been through what it takes to study for that cert I think I'd have approached my university studies in a more effective manner.
While I agree with Joe that experience matters, I will say that years of work doesn't correspond very well to beneficial experience. Many developers don't really make much of their opportunities to be truly better developers. I think quality certifications are one indication that the developer takes their profession seriously. I wouldn't hire somebody only because of the cert; as others have indicated, not everybody holds themselves to an appropriate ethical standard.
I have a slight inclination to think that CS grads tend to make more out of the experiences than non-CS grads. I've known exceptions, so it isn't a theory I'm willing to run too far with. I just know that both as a developer and as a project manager I've seen too many non-CS people who didn't have the mental flexibility I'd have expected given their experience.
I think the CS-er's can more often think 'out of the box' about a problem, while maybe those with the certs have increased their ability to put good things into the box.

Reid - SCJP2 (April 2002)
Joe Murray

Joined: Sep 19, 2001
Posts: 9
Programming languages and computer hardware come and go. The fundamentals of programming like algorithms remain constant. You people who get certifications and think that it is better than a BS in Computer Science drive me up the walls. The Computer Science degree is arguably the most difficult degree path in any university and those that discount it have no idea what they are talking about.
The other people that annoy me are the Computer Information Systems majors in school (who I refer to as Microsoft Excel majors) when they say they did the same thing as me in college.
Just my $0.02

John Ringo

Joined: Feb 22, 2002
Posts: 17
I've known people with a CS degree that couldn't code a thing or even hook up a disk drive. That said, I've known people with certs that couldn't do much of anything either. Knowledge doesn't main much unless you know how to use it anyway.
Personally I'm working on the SCJP and learning a lot as I go. I learned a lot from every cert I've achieved including SCSA, SCNA, CCNA, and OCP. I like the certs, becuase I control the when/where of study. That and I had misfortune in college years ago with cirriculum selection.
Maybe one day I'll get a degree. Until then I'm happy learning, getting certs, and having fun.
Joe Murray

Joined: Sep 19, 2001
Posts: 9
Experience is the measuring stick of being qualified to do a job. Not pieces of paper.
Jeff Allen

Joined: Feb 09, 2002
Posts: 20
Well said, Joe.
My Computer Science degree has been THE deciding factor in every job I've had for the past 18 years. Ever since I first heard of Java (1995?) I knew that Java was the path I wanted to follow.
Just like recent college graduates quickly discover - it's hard to get experience without already having experience.
I trust that my Java certifications will open doors for me that were previously closed. Java experience is my goal. My certification credentials will open the first doors.
[ May 08, 2002: Message edited by: Jeff Allen ]
Jack Lee

Joined: May 12, 2002
Posts: 1
Well, in university, professors will teach you, but when you prepare certification exams, either no one teach you or someone also has a certification(hopefully with a degree) will teach you. This is VERY different. You never how much you can learn from a bright mind.
In one word, a programmer with degree know what certifications can give her, but a programmer with only certifications will never know what a degree can give her. Without a degree, you only know the face, and some day you may make a big mistake in your code.
Wouter Zelle
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 12, 2002
Posts: 30
Originally posted by John Ringo:
I've known people with a CS degree that couldn't code a thing or even hook up a disk drive.

A CS course doesn't aim to make you a good programmer or systems builder (what does hooking up a disk have to do with computer sciences, BTW?). You learn the basic concepts, analytical skills, working in groups, etc. That broad skillset means that you can quickly learn new techniques, tools and concepts. You still need to specialize yourself and become a good programmer, architect, analist, etc.
Certification gives an exployer assurance that you know something about a certain technology, but can you abstract beyond it? Can you commit to working on something for 4 years straight? Can you work in a team? Etc.
I like the certs, because I control the when/where of study.

A CS degree is partly valuable because you are forced to study things that you wouldn't have chosen yourself.
Bret Waldow
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 04, 2000
Posts: 59
My certification has been useful to me in two ways:
1) I studied a lot for it, and I experiemented as I went (so I'd remember more).
2) It has helped me get jobs, which provide experience, and also fund further study.
Pradeep bhatt
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 27, 2002
Posts: 8927

Certification help one to understand the topic better..it makes one to study things which otherwise one would not have studied.
I feel degree is more important than ceritification.

Pradeep bhatt
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 27, 2002
Posts: 8927

Certification help one to understand the topic better..it makes one to study things which otherwise one would not have studied.
I feel degree is more important than certification.
Paulo Lima

Joined: Apr 04, 2002
Posts: 10
Dear Friends, I think that both are important.
The graduation is a blue print of professional. Once graduated we still need to keep updated with technologies. I’m Java Programmer Certified for Java 2 Platform, but I know that Sun creates a new Java Certification for Programmer (JSDK 1.4) the same occur with Product’s certifications where each new version normally requires new certifications exams. Some job opportunities focus on certifications, but a good graduations basis is always welcome too. So start two threads one for graduating and one for certifications.
Paulo Lima.
Jo Liang

Joined: Dec 10, 2001
Posts: 11
I think tradictional eduction teach you a way of study, a way to learn, to look for answer, which is very helpful while you are preparing your certification.
Even if you are not CS major, if you have spent quite amout of time in school and learn the right way to study. Then you will also get benefit from certification.
- Jo
Michael Zalewski
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 23, 2002
Posts: 168
Originally posted by John Ringo:
I've known people with a CS degree that couldn't code a thing or even hook up a disk drive.

I've known a few people with MCSE or Java certifications that also couldn't code a thing. That includes J2EE Certified Architect, which I *cannot* figure out. It seems there are lots of people who 'study for the test', so get very high scores and lots of certifications on their resume. I don't know how these people fool the essay exams, but they do. These 'certified' people are often not as good as a developer with 4 years experience no degree and no certification.
And the experience does not have to come from a paid job. For example, I can be impressed by an applicant who shows me a significant shareware program that they have built, even if it's just a Tetris knockoff. Or show me significant contributions to an OSS (Open Source Software) project. Or even a personal web site that has some kind of application behind it.
Lexington Smith
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 29, 2012
Posts: 67
I am a "beginner" of sorts. But, you can trust me on this one - For most jobs, the projects you make trump everything - GPA, Certifications, College Degree.
Companies want to get their work done. They don't want someone who knows all the theory, but can get real work done. For that, you need to practice.
Projects are the only way out. I have see several job ads and been to some interviews - experience matters a lot.

I see people with certs who can't get any REAL WORK done. Even I did not know so many underlying concepts until I started developing code, making mistakes,
learning from my bad designs etc. Certification can be earned by rote learning which I did. Try solving problems instead. You will learn a lot more.
Vijay Rao

Joined: Sep 13, 2008
Posts: 3
It is basically the question of improving skills in a specific area. One can pursue a degree if:
1. One has time to study and sufficient resources (costs more when compared with a cert)
2. One is not sure yet which area to target (like you dont know whether to go for networking Cisco, etc. or Network Admin side, or Programming, etc.)
3. You don't see the need to get a jot in next few months

Cert are good if you know which area to pursue (say you want to learn Java, J2EE, etc. and become an expert programmer), and you intend to join a job sooner than later.

Regarding dumps, don't worry! Just work the hard way. There are always short cuts in any field for those who seek. But, they have their own limitations. (they can't take one beyond the interview table).

Good luck!
It is sorta covered in the JavaRanch Style Guide.
subject: Certification vs. Degree
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